Why Not Raise the Minumum Wage in American Samoa?January 13, 2007 - by Donny Shaw
I found some more information that reveals a new interpretation of the Frank-McHenry video I linked to below.
The video was shot on Thursday while the House was debating the stem cell research bill. McHenry, in bringing up the amendment to exempt American Samoa “just as it was for the minimum-wage bill,” was trying to draw attention to the exemption in the already-passed minimum wage bill. The whole incident got news and blog coverage for its comic portrayal of the legislative process, and in the meantime prompted people like myself, to question what McHenry is talking about.
According to this Washington Times article,about 75% of American Samoa’s work force is employed by two tuna companies, StarKist, and Chicken of the Sea. Both companies’ headquarters are located in Nancy Pelosi’s state, California, and StarKist is located in her district.
Many Congresspeople didn’t notice this exemption until it was pointed out the next day. It has been a consistent complaint of the House Republicans, that bills are being rushed through the House during this 100 Hour Plan period, without proper time to go over their contents sufficiently.
Representative Mark Kirk said that he “was troubled to learn of this exemption,” “My intention was to raise the minimum wage for everyone. We shouldn’t permit any special favors or exemptions that are not widely discussed in Congress. This is the problem with rushing legislation through without full debate.”
The bill wasn’t officially written by Nancy Pelosi, although she surely had a say in it. It was written by another Democratic Representative from California, George Miller. Miller’s aides said that “the Samoan economy does not have the diversity and vibrance to handle the mainland’s minimum wage, nor does the island have anything like the labor rights abuses Miller claims of the Marianas.” The Mariana Islands were included in the bill.
StarKist does more than a billion dollars a year in business. The company would be badly hurt by the minimum wage increase, which would basically double the amount workers in Samoa are being paid now, $3.60 on average. Critics of the bill argue that a minimum wage increase hurts businesses and the economy. It’s possible that Pelosi wanted to keep any huge damage from the bill out of the eyes of her constituents in San Francisco. If minimum wage was increased on Samoa, StarKist would be likely to offset the new expenses by laying off workers in Samoa and San Francisco.
A Pelosi spokeswoman issued a statement that she had not been lobbied in any way by StarKist.